Slow Cooker Red Lentil Dal Recipe

daal with brown rice

It’s no secret among people who know me that my very favorite cuisine in the world is Indian, with Thai being a close second, and Mexican coming in third. I will always and forever love Indian food. I could pretty much eat it every day (I almost do in some form or another) and never tire of it. My dream is to one day travel to India and stay for a few weeks or months and really get acquainted with the culture and food. I’ve been experimenting with a slow cooker red lentil dal recipe for awhile now. It’s been fun to eat all of my experiments, but I think this time I got it!

When I first moved to New York as a single 20-year-old, I ate as much Indian food as I could. I had eaten homemade chicken curry made by a friend’s mom. Her mother was of Indian descent by way of Mauritius. I think that’s when I really started to fall for Indian food. Other than her chicken curries and a few other recipes here and there, I didn’t really eat much Indian food. My family didn’t love it or make it at home. There weren’t very many restaurants where I lived. So it took moving to the East Coast where I stood in front of my first Indian lunch buffet, and fell completely in love with dal (also spelled daal or dhal). As much as I love all kinds of Indian food, dal is my most favorite. I think lentils might just be my very favorite food of all. It’s a tie with coconut. :)

It’s my comfort food. It’s easy for me to make it at home, though it’s not quite as good as eating at my favorite Indian restaurant or having it prepared by someone who really knows what they’re doing. (I think I’m almost there.) I just love it. The warm spices, the steamy rice. It’s filling and healthy, and I can’t stop myself from having seconds.

red lentils yellow split peas

This recipe calls for a mix of red lentils, split yellow peas, and split mung beans. You can use all of one or a mix. It doesn’t really matter. You could also switch it up with other kinds of lentils and gram. I love the mix of seeds I’ve used to flavor it this time. It’s pretty mild, but still really flavorful. We add the red chile flakes to our individual bowls so it’s not too spicy for our kids. The fennel adds a great flavor without being too overpowering. There’s plenty of turmeric (my new favorite spice) and fresh ginger too. It’s just a good mix of spices that tastes great.

dal with brown rice

You can eat it plain or with rice, or naan. We eat it all different ways, but my favorite is with brown rice. It’s also really good with quinoa.

4.0 from 5 reviews
Slow Cooker Red Lentil Dal Recipe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A hearty, comforting slow cooked dal made from red lentils, split yellow peas, and Indian spices.
Recipe type: Main, Side, Vegetarian, Vegan
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 10-12
  • 3 cups red lentils, yellow split peas, or split mung beans (or a combination)
  • 6 cups water
  • One 28 ounce diced tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon turmeric
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons each: cumin seeds, mustard seeds, onion seeds, fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • For serving:
  • Hot cooked brown rice
  • cilantro, optional
  • extra onion and cumin seeds, optional
  • fresh lemon juice, optional
  1. Place red lentils and yellow split peas into a large bowl and cover with water. Let soak for a few minutes and swish to wash the lentils and split peas. Drain well and rinse. Place in a slow cooker and add the 6 cups water. Add the diced tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cardamom pods, bay leaf, salt and black pepper.
  2. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add all of the seeds to the pan. Shake the pan while on the heat, or use a wooden spoon to stir, while toasting the seeds. When they smell fragrant, remove from heat and transfer to the slow cooker. (It will probably bubble up a bit as the hot seed hit the liquid.) Stir well to combine all ingredients. Place lid on slow cooker and let cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8-10 hours.
  3. Remove lid after cooking time and stir. Taste and if lentils are not soft, cook for another 30-60 minutes, if needed. Add more salt and pepper, if needed.
  4. To serve - Ladle the daal over brown rice and top with a squeeze of fresh lemon, cilantro, and more seeds, if desired.


Check out these other Indian recipes we love:
Potato Chickpea Masala
Vegan Banana Squash Coconut Curry
Vijay’s Channa Masala
Butter Balti Chicken

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39 Responses to “Slow Cooker Red Lentil Dal Recipe”

  1. blessthismessplease February 25, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    Oh wow. Why aren’t we neighbors?! I bet this is PHENOMENAL the next day for lunch.

    • Lindsey Johnson February 25, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

      I wish we were neighbors for many reasons, Melissa! Do you think it would ship well? ;)

  2. KalynsKitchen February 25, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    Yaay, I can actually get to your website and even leave a comment.

    This recipe looks amazing!

    • Lindsey Johnson February 25, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

      If that was the only good thing about moving over to WP, it will have been worth it. :) Thanks for coming over, Kalyn!

  3. Becki February 27, 2014 at 10:45 am #

    Looks like my kind of meal! I know this is a beginner question, but where do you buy cardamom pods in Provo (since the indian store is gone)? I haven’t found them.

  4. Angie March 10, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    I love this website!! I made this recipe pretty much as written and later added quite a few more spices to suit our tastes. If I were to make it again I would also use chicken or vegetable broth for a little more flavor. Thanks for the recipes!

    • Lindsey Johnson March 10, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

      Thanks, Angie! Glad you enjoyed it. Your adaptations sound wonderful!

  5. Alex July 23, 2014 at 9:46 am #

    One of our chefs made a recipe similar to this for our staff the other day. Think I’m going to give this recipe a try.

  6. Tina August 2, 2014 at 12:57 am #

    This looks great. I’m going to do it with red lentils and fresh turmeric. Can’t wait!

  7. Roxy August 11, 2014 at 3:05 am #

    My 2 year old loves this! We eat a lot of pulses (especially since me starting university as a mature student!) this is ace as all 3 kids & hubby love it and super cheap!

    Currently have a huge batch cooking up :)

    Thanks for this from the uk!

  8. Julie September 2, 2014 at 5:42 am #

    My mother was born in Mauritius and I grew up eating her wonderful Indian food! I have a pantry full of dal and I’m always looking for good recipes – I’m going to try this today :)

    • Lindsey Johnson September 2, 2014 at 8:29 am #

      How neat! I need to visit there someday. Let me know what you think of the dal!

  9. Bushra September 8, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

    I’m Bengali and I grew up eating lentils everyday – this recipe is perfect!

  10. Nicholas September 10, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    I can’t wait to try this recipe. I have all the ingredients, except for Onion Seeds. I asked at Whole Foods, and the employee (who happened to be Indian and shops at the local Indian grocery store) said he has never heard of this, and never cooks with it. What do the onion seeds at, flavor-wise?

    • Lindsey Johnson September 10, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

      Nicholas! That is a great question, and I’m sorry you had a difficult time locating it. Black onion seeds are a common name for nigella. So sometimes you may see it labeled as such or in Indian markets the package will say “kollonji” or “kolonji.” I wonder if it could also be a regional thing to certain parts of India. This site lists some substitutions. I can’t really describe the flavor it adds – it’s just kind of distinctive. It won’t ruin the recipe to leave it out by any means. Interestingly enough, I just consulted an old Indian cookbook I have and it lists nigella and onion seeds differently. But I’m almost positive that what I use as “onion seeds” is nigella. Good luck finding it and I appreciate the question!

  11. Liz September 16, 2014 at 11:51 am #

    I found the onion seeds, cardamom pods and fenugreek seeds on Amazon. Cooking up my first batch right now!

  12. Cathy September 20, 2014 at 5:15 pm #


    I recently happened upon this recipe and I am waiting for it to cool off here before I try it (desert Southwest!).

    My crockpot is a casserole dish and I was wondering if I could throw everything together the night before and just add the liquid in the morning. Have you ever done it this way?

    • Lindsey Johnson September 21, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

      Hi Cathy! I hear you! We’re having another hot spell right now where I live. :) I think it’s just fine to throw everything together and add the liquid in the morning. I’m sure it would be just fine.

  13. vegetarian indian recipes September 23, 2014 at 4:03 am #

    Good info. Lucky me I found your website by accidewnt (stumbleupon).
    I have saved as a favorite for later!

  14. Heide September 28, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

    Lindsey, your recipe made for a fantastic dinner tonight! Many thanks!

  15. Saurabh December 7, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    Hi Lindsey,
    Loved your recipe. I’m from India and it feels great you love indian food. I would recommend you to try “Daal baati”, a marwari dish made in Rajasthan, India. You’ll definitely love it.

    • Lindsey Johnson December 7, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

      Hi Saurabh! Thanks for the suggestion! I’ll definitely look for a recipe for Daal baati!

  16. Rebecca December 28, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    great recipe! I made with things I had in the pantry (spelt, mung and adzuki beans). I also threw in a bit of dried chickpeas for additional protein. Was great with quinoa mixed with brown rice and green onions. Yum!!!

    • Lindsey Johnson December 29, 2014 at 10:59 am #

      Sounds wonderful! I love all the additions you made!

  17. Kevin January 14, 2015 at 11:39 am #

    I have it in the slow cooker now but there seems to be a very strong, almost overpowering taste from one of the ingredients, perhaps the ginger, bay leaves or cardamom pods (hopeless as tasting!!).

    Does it generally mellow as it cooks? About 5 hours left.

    • Lindsey Johnson January 14, 2015 at 11:42 am #

      Hi Kevin! It could be the cardamom pods. Is that an ingredient you use normally? Sometimes people can be sensitive to it if they don’t consume it on a regular basis. The flavors will meld. I actually made this yesterday for our dinner. The other smell or taste could be from the lentils. They give off a strong smell and flavor, but as they cook it mellows a lot. If you used the yellow split peas or another legume, this is especially true. Let me know how it goes! I promise it’s delicious. You’ll love it. We eat it all the time. :)

  18. Mairead Murphy January 24, 2015 at 3:52 am #

    Yum, thanks!

  19. John March 2, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

    I made this today, which was a bit of a risk given that I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten lentils before. I couldn’t locate fenugreek or onion seeds, and instead of cardamom pods and fresh ginger, I swapped in their powdered equivalents, but this is just my third time using my slow cooker, so I figured it’s a bit early to be Mr. Fancy Schmancy Chef who has to have everything perfect. I thought it turned out well. I wouldn’t mind more of a kick, but I think I’m going to call this a win.

    • Lindsey Johnson March 3, 2015 at 8:52 am #

      John! That is so, so great! Way to go! I’m so glad you came back over to report back. Let me know if you need any other slow cooker inspiration. One of my favorite sites is Slow Cooker From Scratch. So many great, healthy recipes collected over there.


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